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A letter from Jed Koball in Peru
In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD! – Isaiah 2:2-5 (Reading from First Sunday of Advent)
It was nearly three years ago when we were attacked on the mountain. The children of CAMBIALO, accompanied by university students from the U.S., were painting a mural in their hometown of La Oroya, high in the central Andes of Peru. In this town, often referred to as one of the five most contaminated cities in the world due to the pollution from a metals smelter, the kids of CAMBIALO wanted to share their hopes of a healthier, cleaner and greener world by painting a picture of green mountains and blue waters on a wall in the middle of the town. When they were not even half-way done with their mural, a mob of over two hundred men representing the lead smelter attacked us – stealing our buckets and paint brushes and turning them into weapons against us, along with their rocks and fists. It was a dark day in La Oroya.
A letter from Ellen Smith in Germany/Russia
Dear Friends and Family!
Almost thirteen years ago, just after our arrival in Russia, I made a trip with Donald Marsden and other colleagues to the city of Surgut in western Siberia. It was March, the beginning of the end of their long winter, but still cold, and lots of snow was still on the ground. There are more than one hundred small, native people groups in Russia. Donald had seen the early efforts of missionaries in this region to reach the Khanti people, and he invitedHarold Kurtz to share good missiology as a guide to their efforts. I tagged along, because the church in Surgut is in the Twinning program, and it was an opportunity to listen to Harold.
In the middle of the ten-day program, the pastors returned home for services at their own churches. One of those pastors was Vladimir Tashtiev. On Friday afternoon, Vladimir invited three of us to travel to Nizhnevartovsk for worship with his congregation. We had no reason to decline, other than the fact that none of us spoke much Russian. It was an adventure the three of us have never forgotten, and the beginning of something that is finally taking shape.Continue reading
A letter from Rich and Marilyn Hansen in Ethiopia
Kidus buried his face in his mother’s shoulder. As Mentor Mother Yemserach asked his mother questions about her son’s health, his eyes slowly peeked out to look at me, a stranger in his home. This home visit that I participated in is part of the Community Outreach Practicum Project. The project is part of the new Master of Development Studies (MADS) program at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), where Rich and I both work. The primary purpose of the project is to monitor and improve the health of mothers and young children. The project also serves as a practical way that EGST students can learn about health issues facing mothers and children in some of the poorest areas of Addis.
Two areas have been selected for this pilot program: the area of Addis where EGST is located, and Holetta, about 25 km west of Addis. Within these areas, every pregnant woman and mother of children below the age of 5 is identified. If willing, these mothers and children receive regular home visits from Mentor Mothers. The Mentor Mothers, who are mothers themselves, have undergone rigorous training to learn how to build relationships with families, act as resources for health care, and evaluate health issues relating to children or pregnancy. All Mentor Mothers are members of a local church and see this as a ministry.Continue reading
A letter from Tim & Marta Carriker in Brazil
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… What does that mean in Brazil? I have added a picture that reminds me of Christmas in Brazil--a basket full of fruit! Yes, in Brazil Christmas comes in the summer, and fruit is very much a part of the celebrations! May you be blessed this Christmas and in the coming year!
But, I am getting a little ahead of myself! Before Christmas comes Thanksgiving, right? Well, this year we do have a lot to be thankful for. First, we have a new granddaughter, Gabrielle, born October 8th to our daughter Jenny and Michael. She is a lovely and healthy little girl, and we are enjoying having her near us, as our other two grandchildren live so far away in Hawaii.
Second, our local church has given us many reasons to be grateful. One of them is the many new leaders including elders, deacons and cell group leaders. Their willingness to serve is amazing, and our church has attracted new families. One of them is Jucélio and Sue Ellen, who bring their little boy and sometimes other family members. We are very thankful for all of them. Tim volunteers as the co-pastor.Continue reading
A letter from Tim Carriker in Brazil
We work with the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPCB), a 110 year old Brazilian denomination. It is growing both internally and externally. Internally, there is an increasing concern for pastoral care, continuing education of pastors, leadership development and revitalization of congregations. Because of that, I am supervising the continuing education program for pastors and developing a new online learning program that will serve a number of needs, beginning with the equipping of Sunday school teachers.
Externally, there is 1) both a renewed commitment and search for new and effective models of church planting, 2) courageous engagement in world mission through sending Brazilian missionaries, 3) and partnerships within Latin America and in Africa. For example, concerning the first of these, many churches are forming their congregations in small groups as a vital strategy to facilitate more intimate relationships with non church members. In our own local congregation now, a third of those who worship have been a part of our church life for less than a few years.Continue reading
A letter from Thelma Goodrum in Brazil
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Greetings from Brazil!
We are now in our second term of our partnership with the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Usually Farris is the one who writes with news of our work, but recently he suggested that I write about some of our activities, so here we go…
We are members of the United Presbyterian Church of Maruípe here in Vitória, which is the island capital city of the southeastern state of Espírito Santo. I serve as the assistant pastor at the church in Maruípe and also am helping in a small church in a neighborhood called Jardim Tropical (“Tropical Garden”). On weekdays, I work in the office of the headquarters of the denomination, and I also teach at our seminary extension in the town of Colatina, which is a three hour drive by bus from Vitória. The seminary is called the “Center of Theological Formation ‘Richard Shaull,’” and its headquarters are in Vitória.Continue reading
A letter from Karla Koll in Costa Rica
"No one will hurt or destroy in my holy mountain, because the earth will be full of the knowledge of God" (Is. 11:9).
Dear companions in mission,
Advent this year finds me in a new setting as I begin the next phase in my journey of mission service. My husband Javier and I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, in mid-September, where I have been settling into my new duties as professor of mission, history and religions at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL).
Advent is a time of new beginnings. As we start a new liturgical year, Advent invites us to look back to God's coming among us as a child born two thousand years ago. This year I find myself looking back, as well, on the path that has brought me to this place. I first came to Costa Rica as a theology student in 1984 to learn from Central Americans. At that time, wars were raging in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. I encountered Jesus in new ways as people in the seminary and beyond shared with me how they saw God present with them in the struggles for peace with justice in the region. Jesus was in the refugee camps, sharing the sufferings of those who had been displaced. Jesus was walking with those who were risking their lives to defend human rights. And Jesus was present in hymns filled with the hope of a world made new.Continue reading
A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
Late Fall 2013
The cherry leaves are turning red now in Nagasaki, and falling as winter approaches, having done their best for the trees throughout this year. Although the days are becoming colder, people’s lives are warmed by the love that is shown as the holiday season comes nearer.
At religious emphasis programs of Kwassui Gakuin (both the university and the secondary school) in mid-November, Ms. Mitsuko Fukui told us about her lifework at a facility for mentally challenged persons that was founded more than fifty years ago by her husband in central Japan. This is Shiyo Gakuen (in Shiga prefecture). The name indicates “synthesis,” in the sense of bringing together persons of very different abilities to live in a new kind of harmonious relationship. Ms. Fukui, who is now Chairman of the Board of Directors there, told us that there are three basic requirements to work there: to love to eat, to sleep, and to laugh!Continue reading
A letter from Josh Hekkila West Africa regional liaison, in Ghana
In the south of Ghana, it's common to find Presbyterian pastors who serve church districts that include three or four congregations. As you move to the north of the country, though, which is poorer and more rural, and where the church is younger, these districts grow in size. Ten or twenty congregations in a district is not unusual.
I know of one pastor in the north of Ghana who serves a district that includes about 35 congregations. This means that over the course of a year, the pastor is able to visit each congregation in the district only once or twice on a Sunday morning, one or twice for Wednesday Bible studies, once or twice for Saturday weddings and funerals. Clearly, the work he has at hand is not easy.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Collins in Zambia (Regional Liaison for East Central Africa)
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Recently, during a pause from all my Regional Liaison busy-ness, I reflected on the meaning of Sabbath- a time of spiritual refreshment and refocusing, a time to engage in activities that encourage me to draw near to God, that- in the words of Lynne Baab, author of Sabbath: The Gift of Rest-“ nurture intimacy with God.”
According to Baab, “God made an incredibly beautiful and abundant world. Because the world is fallen, we see brokenness and pain all around us. We can see what is missing, and we work and pray to help restore creation to its intended wholeness. On the Sabbath we are invited to set aside our concern for what is missing in our lives. We are invited to stop working and simply rest in the good and wonderful aspects of everything God has given us.”
This message resonated very strongly with me. There is so much poverty and pain in Zambia. I and my church colleagues here work very hard to contribute to restoring the wholeness of creation. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the work that we forget God’s peace and beauty.Continue reading
A letter from Nuhad Tomeh in Lebanon
Late Fall 2013
Dear friends in Christ,
Greetings from Beirut, Lebanon, on this Reformation Day!
In the weeks ahead, I will be visiting church partners in Syria and Lebanon, encouraging them to continue to be faithful in their witness in the midst of all that is happening in the Middle East, which is having a devastating effect upon their Christian presence and witness. During that time, I plan to share with them inspiration from Isaiah 11:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding…
…The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
A letter from Kurt Esslinger in South Korea
Late Fall 2013
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus the Christ! The seasons are progressing here in Daejeon, Korea, as trees are changing color and the mountains surrounding our city are calling us to come and walk their paths. We are now also preparing our hearts and minds for the Advent season, although you will probably read this after Advent has begun.
We recently took a break with our Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) from our usual work of cultivating relationships with our partners in Daejeon and volunteering in children’s centers. We all took a trip down to Busan, South Korea, to attend and observe the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Opening worship was particularly powerful. Prayers were given in various languages from different regions of the world. Each prayer lifted up cries of lamentation while also celebrating hope of God working in their midst. These prayers lamented the rape of women, continuing conflict and war, responsibility for colonization and imperialism, and environmental destruction among other issues for today’s church in the world. Yet hope in the Spirit that brings Christians from all over the world to worship together was also affirmed. That Spirit is also bringing us together in peacemaking all over the world, as so many at the WCC assembly hope.Continue reading
A letter from Tom and Judy Harvey in England
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are… (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28).
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
Over the years I have grown convinced that God has a great sense of humor. That mirth is caught up in the wonderful and creative inversion that we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus was born into a poor family from Nazareth and that changed the world. Through him, the weak overcome the strong, the poor the rich and the despised the prestigious. And that transforming mirth is displayed through the lives of the students and alumni of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), where we have been called to serve. Here the weak, despised and poor overturn our fallen world through innovative and effective research.Continue reading
A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia
Grace and peace to you in the mighty name of our Savior Jesus Christ!
During Advent and throughout the year, the Benedictus voiced by John the Baptist’s father Zechariah in Luke 1:76-79 reminds us to both BE PREPARED to meet the Lord at any moment and also PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, to open the way for Jesus to be known throughout the world. Twice weekly we read this at the Mekane Yesus Seminary English chapel service.
Recently my Spiritual Formation class viewed a video about this very topic and then discussed the presence of the Holy Spirit in Ethiopia’s Protestant church today. Let me tell you the story of how this came to be. In 2010 for our first Thanksgiving in Ethiopia, a mission delegation from Shenandoah Presbytery in Virginia brought a frozen turkey in their baggage for us to savor together at mission co-workers Rich and Marilyn Hansen’s home. While we dined Interim Executive Presbyter Randy Webb told us about the historic Gore revival of 1970. Since hearing that story, a desire of my heart has been to visit Gore in southwest Ethiopia. Then one year ago while sharing my Ethiopian mission with several Shenandoah Presbytery churches during Interpretation Assignment in the U.S., Dr. Bill Burslem gave me a video of Rev. Mershaa telling about that revival.Continue reading
A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
Late Fall 2013
A Mission Co-worker in Europe?
I’m going to share some shocking news with you, so prepare yourself. Wait for it…here it comes. We have mission co-workers in Europe! I know, you’re shocked aren’t you? So often in the church we think of mission work in Africa or Latin America. In many parts of the world people are flocking to the church and often our mission service involves helping to prepare and train people there to meet the spiritual needs in their own nations. Other mission work also involves medical assistance and support. So often we don’t think about Europe as a place that needs mission support. Everyone in Europe is like us, right? Why would they need mission support from the PC(USA)?Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Dimmock in Zambia
Dear Friends and Family,
The red clay dust billowed under the big Land Cruiser tires as we wound our way through community school yards, around fish ponds and shallow wells, and past fields of newly planted maize. We were in the Eastern Province of Zambia, the heartland of the ministry of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). We visited mission stations and clinics and learned of literacy, lay training, health, education, and development programs—all providing hands and feet to the good news of the love of God in Christ Jesus. Traveling with the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) director from the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Rev. Richard Williams, our partners in the CCAP Zambia Synod showed us possible placement sites for YAVs coming to Zambia. And there are so many great possibilities! This is a church that believes in holistic ministry, and they are welcoming the opportunity to share their ministries, and their lives, with adventurous, open, seeking young people.
A letter from Tracey King-Ortega in Nicaragua
I wasn’t prepared for this. How is it that a place where I’ve been living over a decade no longer feels like home? Everything around me seems grungy and worn down: the trash strewn about, the children begging at stoplights, our leaky roof. After nearly six months in the U.S., I know I’ve been spoiled. Living with my mom again was luxurious, and now, back in Nicaragua, all I see is what is wrong with the place. It feels as if just about everything is harder here. I’ve traveled back and forth between Central America and U. S. often as regional liaison, so I’m surprised at how hard this transition has been. In my first weeks back, now with my two-year-old and newborn twins to care for, the burdens of daily life here have been overwhelming.
I feel as if I’m experiencing Nicaragua for the first time, again. When we first experience the third world, our initial response tends to see only the deficiencies, what’s wrong, what’s missing or what needs fixing. I see that kind of approach with mission teams all the time. It is with the best of intentions, wanting to make things better, but looking at it through our “first-world” lenses, we tend to judge.
But then when we’ve dedicated ourselves to a place and a people, been there awhile, developed relationships with the people, and gotten used to the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of daily life, we then begin to see the strengths of that place, the unique gifts it has to offer and how our lives are enriched because of it.Continue reading
A letter from Burkhard Paetzold in Germany
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 19-21).
The peace of Christ be with you all in this Advent and Christmas season and in the year to come.
Let me first and foremost thank you for all your prayers and support in 2013. It’s your faithfulness and hope that gave me encouragement. Many donated generously to my ministry. Now is the time for me to thank you very much.
When I came to visit the Swiss Reformed Aid organization HEKS recently (to talk about further collaboration) I noticed a poster at the train station saying, “Give to your father-in-law a goat (and give the gift of help to small farmers in Bangladesh).” HEKS has a catalog of gifts from chickens to outhouses, from heating material to land ownership, that help those in need.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Dicks in Jordan
Dear Family and Friends,
How do you take eighteen years of a life, and condense it into a few boxes? That is the process I am going through these days, as I sort through papers, books, photos, cd's, cards, letters, and the like.
Not an easy task, as many of you know!
As the pictures come down from the walls, the cupboards emptied, the furniture sold off and carted away, the boxes sealed, and I look around at an empty apartment, I am reminded once again of what servitude is about; for to empty ourselves and our lives of worldly goods and possessions allows us to be opened up to the endless possibilities of good that God has in store for each and every one of us.
As I prepare to leave the Middle East, I am left with the feeling that there is so much more left to be done. Yet a quote from the biblical mishna, which has hung on my refrigerator door for years, has served as a guideline – and a reflection of my own, personal convictions as well – these many years: “It is not your task to complete the job of perfecting the world, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21 - “Ethics of the Fathers”).Continue reading
A letter from Jo Ella Holman, regional liaison for the Caribbean region, on home leave
“I didn’t know why God wanted this school here.” That’s what the Dean of the Nursing School said when I talked with her this fall in Haiti. Hilda Alcindor lived in the U.S. for 30 years, part of the Haitian diaspora. She is a registered nurse and a former officer in the US military. She was doing just fine with her life in the US, when God called her through a medical doctor and member of First Presbyterian, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Young was convinced that a nursing school was what God wanted in Haiti. He had been coming to Haiti for years, working out of Hôpital Ste. Croix in Léogâne, and had witnessed the shortage of quality nursing care. Through a partnership that included the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti (a long-time partner of the PCUSA’s World Mission), the Medical Benevolence Foundation (MBF), which raises money for Presbyterian medical mission, and individuals and congregations of the PC(USA), a dream became a reality in 2005—the only four-year, baccalaureate-degree nursing program in Haiti and with Dean Hilda at its head.Continue reading
A letter from Esther Wakeman in Thailand
On Monday mornings after worship, the chaplaincy staff of the Office of Spiritual and Community Life at Payap University here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, get together for our “cell group” time. I introduced the group to “Immanuel Prayer.” It starts with gratitude—remembering a time when we felt particularly close to God, and sharing that memory with a friend, and then praying and thanking God in detail for God’s goodness in that past experience. This usually helps us connect emotionally and spiritually to God, at which point we can open ourselves further to God’s presence by asking Jesus if there is anything he would like to help us with at the moment, and then noticing whatever comes into our awareness and talking it over with him.
As I remembered with gratitude God’s goodness that morning, and felt connected to God, and asked Jesus to show me anything he wanted to help me with, our chaplain came to mind, along with some disappointment I’d felt toward him. I brought our relationship to Jesus and asked him to show me Rev. Mana’s heart.Continue reading
A letter from Nadia Ayoub in Ukraine
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done; sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” Psalm 105:1
Dear friends and family,
I greet you with the peace of Christ the Lord. With the Psalmist, I give thanks to the Lord our God for he is good and his love for us endures forever. I rejoice at many of God’s wonderful acts in 2013, and I thank you for your active partnership with your prayers and financial support.
Thank God, I came back from six weeks of interpretation assignment (IA) in the USA. I visited three churches; two were new for me, and it was amazing to see how the Lord has kept for himself faithful Presbyterians who are truly serving the Lord locally, and still have the desire to serve him more globally as far as Karpatlja- Ukraine among the Roma people. That is where I was sent by the Presbyterian World Mission to work alongside with the Reformed church in Ukraine. Lord willing again on January 2014,I will come back to the USA for more of (IA) time to visit with your congregations and share what the Lord has been doing among the Roma people because of your prayers and financial support.Continue reading
A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love
Christmas in Taiwan is a refraction of several traditions. It’s not uncommon to hear Christmas music in a store in, say, July, but decorations come out intentionally only in December. Shopping districts are more likely to have lights and tinsel now, but it’s still far less commercialized than in the US. If Santa appears, he’s usually much slimmer and speaks Mandarin. Where my nieces in the States learned a lot about Santa from friends (and had pretty high expectations), here he primarily visits malls and isn’t guaranteed to bring you anything on Christmas day. It’s never a white Christmas, and things are usually cool and wet in December.
A letter from Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta on home assignment from Indonesia
It’s crisis makes reality, real,
Intensity, intense. -William Everson
Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,
How do we find or create meaning out of tragedy? Sometimes Americans ask me if it is dangerous to live in Indonesia. We have exotic dangers there, like active volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, mass violence, terrorism, pirates, elephants, tigers, huge spiders, little mosquitoes. The only ones that scare me are the mosquitoes. I’ve had dengue fever twice. Violent crime is rare where we live in Yogyakarta. I always thought that if I died unexpectedly in Indonesia it would be from a traffic accident. Those gentle Javanese are like wild cowboys when they drive. Motorcycles drive without lights at night, sometimes carrying whole families. There are huge potholes, chickens, old farmers on bicycles, no speed limits and hardly any signs to warn you of danger. “Right of way” is a foreign idea, and traffic lanes are just for show. People drive like a school of fish. The little fish just move out of the way of the big guys. In Indonesia, you stay alert at the wheel or you die. After returning to the US a friend wrote: “I miss driving with you in Indonesia. Driving in America is so boring.”
A letter from Dennis Smith in Argentina (Regional liaison for Brazil and Southern Cone)
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, this is a special note to ask for your prayers.
On Dec. 3 Maribel will have surgery here in Buenos Aires to remove her thyroid. A couple of weeks ago a biopsy indicated that she has a small malignant tumor on her thyroid that requires prompt treatment. Thankfully, Maribel currently experiences no discomfort and is facing the surgery with equanimity. This is quite a common procedure, and the prognosis is excellent for a full and prompt recovery. The treatment should require no more than one night in the hospital.
We are glad to report that we have access to excellent medical care here and that the insurance coverage provided for us by Presbyterian World Mission is excellent.
As always, your prayers are a source of solace and strength.
A letter from César Carhuachín in Colombia
Late FAll 2013
Greetings from Barranquilla City, Atlantic Department, Colombia,
I want to begin this letter by giving thanks to God for God´s mission in Colombia and your involvement in that mission. Particularly, for the ministry of our church partner the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, which is sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This church is worshiping God in several creative ways. For example, on Sunday, October 27th I was preaching about “The Women and the Bible and Society” at “Comunidad El Camino” Presbyterian Church while at the other side of the city, a group of children was leading the worship service at “Seventh Presbyterian Church.” This church is serving the poor and several displaced communities around the country, which are victims of the structural violence. This church, through our Ecumenical partner, the Colombian Reformed University, is providing an accredited theological formation to many inquirers, candidates and pastors in the Christian ministry. The group of students comes from several denominations such as Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Pentecostal. I praise God for this ministry and for the opportunity of collaborating with them.Continue reading
A letter from Cesar Carhuachin in Colombia
Greetings from Barranquilla City, Atlantic Department!
Colombia has 32 Departments, and Barranquilla is located in the Atlantic Department (a little information about Colombia for my brothers and sisters in USA).
Thanks for the difference you are making in the mission work here in Colombia. Your partnership in God´s mission in Colombia through your encouraging notes, prayers and financial support are motives to praise God in my prayer time. It is amazing to me to see how well we are connected as members of the church of Christ. Thank God for our connectional system.
September has been an interesting month in my duties as professor at the School of Theology. It was a time for exams. The fact of having students with diverse backgrounds, different ages, from twenties to fifties, singles, married and grandfathers, some with previous theological educations and almost all of them full time workers, presents a challenge to me. I must to say that I have been personally impacted by their effort, willingness, openness and dedication. They are serious in their commitment to the theological education, and this inspires me to accompany them in this learning experience.Continue reading
A letter from Ryan and Alethia White prior to service in Germany
The very word conjures up a mix of emotions, some we can name and some we can’t, suggesting that life is not predictable in ways once thought, and the path ahead is not entirely known.
In the months since our summer orientation, we have gone from the long, lingering days of summer on the East Coast to the bold, blooming color and familiarity of southern California, a road trip up the West Coast, which culminated in Ryan’s ordination service in Seattle, and finally to our current location, Anchorage, Alaska where winter is setting in. The change in seasons reminds us that we are coming ever closer to our intended departure for Berlin in mid-January.
We didn’t realize, when we left our cozy cottage in Pasadena in July for orientation and some family time on the East Coast, that we wouldn’t be returning. Our suitcases were packed with summer clothing for a month away, and we’re living out of them still. While we were away at orientation, our property experienced a lead contamination that has yet to be cleaned up so that we can return to our house to safely pack up and ship out. We’re thankful we weren’t at home when it happened, but the frustration and stress it has caused means we often forget to be thankful. However, we are reminded of the benefits of living with less, and this experience will affect how we deal with what remains in our house.
A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
When I completed my first year in Thailand, I wondered to myself (and to God) what I had taken on, and whether either of us was in our right minds when the decision to come to Thailand was made. (Yes, even missionaries question God’s sanity at times!) But when I took our new group of volunteers to the Grand Palace to begin to introduce them to Thai culture and customs, I saw a wonderful cadre of committed Christians, all eager to begin the adventure that God had called them to in this land. They are young, educated, loving, caring, scared and determined. Three of our new Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT) come from the United States of America, one from Great Britain, and four from Nagaland in India. Two are trained teachers. The rest are willing to serve as teachers for the next two years, in order to help young Thai children practice using the English language that they have learned in the classroom. But before they dive in and begin doing that, I spend three weeks with them in Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, reviewing some critical information that might make the difference between whether they survive or thrive in this foreign land.Continue reading
A letter from Elizabeth Turk in Madagascar
Greetings! October was a big month for Madagascar – the first round presidential election took place peacefully on October 25th – the first election since the coup d’état of 2009. The run-off presidential election and legislative elections are scheduled for December 20th.
Even as people await election results, Madagascar is still in the throes of the post-coup economic crisis. Life is very difficult for people. The United Nations latest report states that 92% of the people of Madagascar are living below the poverty line. A plague of locusts threatens much of the country. Many children did not return to school this year because their parents couldn’t afford to send them, leaving a lost generation of 1.5 million children out of school.
Where is the Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar or FJKM) in the midst of all of this? It is witnessing and trying to bring reconciliation. It is also continuing on with its work of evangelism and outreach. The fact that the FJKM church does not stop its ministry in the midst of crisis, but actually strengthens its ministries, gives hope to many.Continue reading
A letter from Bob and Kristi Rice on home assignment from Congo
The sun was already getting hot as we trudged through the sand at 8 a.m. We were on our way to church at the Dikongayi parish in Kananga. Kids shouted excited greetings, and family members brushed teeth, bathed kids, or drank tea in preparation for heading to church. It was Christmas morning! We gathered with Pastor Mukendi, the choirs, and elders outside the church to say a prayer and receive last minute instructions. The service started, and people trickled in, packing the pews full and making room for the kids on the floor. The church has five choirs – women, men, mixed adults, youth, and children. They each sang with energy and precision, celebrating the birth of the savior. The choirs are a highlight of the service in Congo, and on this special day their songs reflected long hours of practice. The level of energy throughout the congregation was high, and worship was exuberant. With people packed in so tight, it got warm and kids got fussy, but the excitement and joy were palpable. What turned out to be a four-hour service seemed to go too quickly.Continue reading
A letter from Sharon Curry in the U.S., waiting to return to South Sudan
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” - Agnes M. Pharo
This picture reminds me what a long road this journey has been. As it winds through the mountain, there seems to be no beginning and there seems to be no end. I often wonder how many times Jesus felt like that on his journey, except he went confident that God was with him each step of the way, and so do I.
Jesus’ beginning in a small stable in Bethlehem and his ending, crucified on a cross and walking again among his people, are reminders to me to never give up. God has a road for each of us, whether we can look back and see the beginning, or look forward and see the end.Continue reading
A letter from Dennis Smith in Argentina (Regional liaison for Brazil and Southern Cone)
Suddenly this whole Christmas thing – once again – is right around the corner. Bright lights, endless commotion. . .
The church calendar invites us to pause, take a deep breath, and see Christmas differently - as part of the season of Advent. Far from being the season for frivolity, our Christian tradition portrays Advent as a time to find within ourselves the patience to wait for God’s wholeness to be revealed in our lives and in all of creation.
Advent invites us to live in thankfulness, despite life’s messiness. Advent invites us to live out the hope born of what God is doing in our lives and in our world.
As I approach Advent this year, I remember a Sunday several weeks ago when I pinch-hit for a pastor friend so he and his wife could celebrate her birthday free of pastoral duties.
In my sermon, I focused on the passage in Luke 17 where Jesus tells of ten lepers asking to be healed. He promptly sends them – still leprous - to show themselves to the religious authorities. On the way, all ten were healed; only one – a Samaritan – returned to give thanks.Continue reading
A letter from Kari Nicewander in Zambia
This is Isaac. Isaac is adorable. Just plain straight up crazy cute. And he spends a lot of time at our house.
Yesterday, I was working from home, there were nine kids in the house, a pretty normal afternoon. The older boys were painting at the dining room table, some other kids were coloring, and others were playing foosball. (Yes, we have a foosball table in our home. It is a loan from very kind neighbors...)
Sitting at my desk, trying to write curriculum, I could hear the noise of the ball flying across the wooden stadium, children arguing over crayons, and the older kids, occasionally showing one another their creations. From time to time, one of the young artists would bring in a masterpiece for me to admire. Again, a pretty normal afternoon.Continue reading
A letter from Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
Becky and I continue as classroom teachers at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania. Since I teach economics, I am drawn to the predictions of economists. The interesting question in economics is not so much what is happening now, but what will happen in the future. Many see our times as an age of the "economics of superstars" and “winner take all markets” in which machines talk to machines in the “Internet of things.” In a new and widely noted book, Average is Over (2013), economist Tyler Cowen examines how the growing power of artificial intelligence embodied in machines is changing labor markets by dramatically affecting wages and incomes. Cowen predicts that people with the right skills will complement smart machines and become very good at making all sorts of decisions in business and in life. Less adept people with the wrong skills will do poorly. His prediction is stark: society will become a "hypermeritocracy" in which an elite 15 percent will be richly rewarded for their adeptness in harnessing technology but the remaining 85 percent will be consigned to a precarious existence. Their wages will stagnate; few get a second chance at success. The "right" skills in today’s world command a premium wage.
A letter from Ruth Brown in Congo
Life to you! And Merry Christmas!
While I was in Kerrville, Texas, a few weeks ago, Congo and America’s “South” suddenly became one in the Spirit. I experienced the thrill of these nations joining together in God’s presence when the usual calm of a Sunday morning worship service in the South was suddenly punctuated with absolutely thrilling, stirring (and loud!) DRUMBEATS during the morning anthem! What good news transpired through this joyful music!
The love of Christ, as powerful and as pervasive as a drumbeat, unites us as partners in mission. Traveling all over the USA this fall, I found many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members working to address critical global initiatives of the PC(USA)’s World Mission: evangelism, sharing the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ, and working to eliminate the root causes of poverty.Continue reading
A letter from Katie Griffin in Argentina
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. Isaiah 9: 2
“The image in Genesis 1 of the Spirit (or wind, or breath) of God moving over the primordial chaos, readying to birth order and wonder in creation, is a powerful image for me of how the Lord is stirring in our midst to give birth to new life in the future” (Steve Plank, Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery, presbytery e-circular, “Monday in Ministry” Oct. 28, 2013).
Here in Argentina, the themes of light and hope flourish at this time of year. Spring is upon us. Even though there remains a ton of work to do before the year closes, the longer days and the promise of life renewed make it easier to breathe. Literally, the darkness is falling behind us, and the promise of summer fun and sun is before us. Halleluiah!!!
The words from my home presbytery, above, poetically express the search and hope for life and order in the midst of what sometimes seems like chaos in a dark, struggling world.
Where have we been this year?
Personally, I have embarked upon the writing of my doctoral thesis, and I am about half way through now. To speak honestly, and in the sense of a prayer request, teaching, travelling, studying, raising a family, have taken their toll on my body, mind and spirit. I had a minor throat surgery in July after about three years of working with an endocrinologist to figure out why I was having problems with kidney stones. Once I recovered from the surgery, I had the shingles for about five weeks. These are minor health problems, but they alert me to the reality that the human being is a frail creature. By God’s grace, nothing worse has happened, and by God’s grace, I am learning to slow down, take life one day at a time, and not try to insist on deadlines. If I can walk by God’s grace, my thesis will get done. If I continue to insist on my own will power, my body will continue to break down. God’s grace is the light of my life, whereas I am my own darkness.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.